Long-time penpals discover similar family background

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By Ron Benningfield

Although Magnolia resident Tickle Ragland and Sharon Meisenheimer, who lives in Walnut, Ill., have exchanged letters for 65 years, neither pen pal knew until recently that Sharon’s husband Lester has relatives buried in LaRue County.
“We knew Lester’s grandparents came from Hodgenville and moved to Illinois where they were buried, but we didn’t know where the rest of his family was buried,” Sharon said.  
Her curiosity aroused, she began an Internet genealogy study and found that her husband’s great grandfather John Wirth and his wife Mary Gropp Wirth are buried at the Catholic cemetery off Greensburg Street (Highway 210) near the LaRue County Fairgrounds.  
Research also showed that John Wirth’s father, Jacob, lies with his wife Mary Rosena (Shertly) Wirth in Red Hill Cemetery.
“Jacob’s family moved to LaRue County in 1857 and both he and his son John were Civil War veterans,” Sharon said.
Howard Ragland, Tickle’s husband, quoting a history book written by local author Edward Benningfield, found that Jacob owned more than 100 acres three miles northeast of Hodgenville. He enlisted in Company K of the 26th Kentucky Infantry in August 1862 and was discharged June 30 1865. He died March 28, 1910 at the age of 90.
His son John, born in 1844, was a member of Company A, Second Kentucky Cavalry.  A Federal soldier like his father, he was wounded by Kentuckian John Hunt Morgan’s men in a battle at Sparta, Tenn. Surviving the war, he was discharged in 1865. John Wirth died August 13, 1912.
“One interesting point, according to this account, was that John was part of an honor guard of 24 Civil War veterans who escorted President Theodore Roosevelt when he spoke during the laying of the cornerstone at Lincoln’s birthplace Feb. 12, 1909,” Ragland said.
The link in both families having relatives buried in LaRue County strengthens the bond between the two pen pals who began corresponding when both were fifth graders, Ragland (then Hambright), at her home in Chattanooga and Meisenheimer (nee Carlson) in rural Illinois.
“It’s interesting to note that these women from states other than Kentucky married men with roots here in LaRue County,” said Howard Ragland.